Day 1 with Tiffany (in the cold and the wind is a bit of a stretch for both photographer and model.)

1/125 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 165mm

1/125 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 165mm

Happy New Year everybody! I am usually writing a blog post about reminiscing about the year past and which photos were my favorites. But I would like to say I started the first day of 2016 off a little different from what I have in the past. It was cold here in the Northeastern part of the USA and it was windy too. But I had a wonderful time shooting outdoors with a model that I have worked with in the past and it was the perfect day for this project. Tiffany needed fresh shots and I wanted to do something that would tie her into the city in which she lives. Bethlehem Pennsylvania is a beautiful city with some strong culture and history. So local people will recognize the elements in the images as being shot in Bethlehem and others will still see good images none the less.

I really have to hand it to Tiffany (aka LayDeeFly) for braving the cold and even worse the wind and coming out on a day when most people are recuperating from the festivities from the night before. The Steel Stacks as they are known to the locals of Bethlehem are actually a national icon. The Stacks are the remnants of the once world-famous Bethlehem Steel Corporation that turned out tons upon tons of steel that built iconic structures such as the Golden Gate Bridge and so much more. The city is also rich in Moravian history as well. I could go on and on but this post is not a history lesson, but rather a lesson on growing and stretching. Stretching does no one any good unless it hurts a little bit and as the hurt fades away the endorphins kick in and you ride that high till it fades away.

So getting out and shooting on New Year’s day in the cold and the wind is a bit of a stretch for both photographer and model. I think more-so for the model because she was in a body suit. But with use of a blanket and a fury hat and several retreats to the car for a little heater break we did it. Shooting around the Stacks and in some instances just standing in the middle of the street was so easy because of the lack of people, there were very few. We did draw a fair amount of attention when people seen a girl wrapped in a blanket wearing a buffalo hat with horns and knee high socks walking down the street. But that’s the fun of it all; hearing the horns honking from the passing traffic was actually heartwarming.

So as the sun was starting its final decent we made our way to the bridge that overlooks the Steel Stacks and captured some final images, then it was coffee time.

Gonna be  great year!

Watermark Your Photos (“copyright” is the only “right” mentioned in the US Constitution)

 

 

As come the daffodils to remind us winter is going away.

As come the daffodils to remind us winter is going away.

Is a watermark worth it? Should I really or do I really need to put a watermark in my photos?

The answer is yes… and no. Ok that was confusing. Seriously there are times when it is prudent to put the mark in and there are times to leave it out. And recently while seeing an interview with Ed Greenberg famed intellectual property attorney and co-author of the book “The Copyright Zone,” Ed cites a recent case to come through the courts that upped the ante for the removal of a watermark to between $30K to $150K and that is some serious cha-ching for taking someone’s photo and say “cropping out their watermark.

The average person should be concerned about images being clipped off of social media sites like Facebook, Flickr and Twitter and so on. But do you really have to watermark everything? I say “no” of course not. But let’s take a closer look. So if you take a photo of your dinner and post it, then I say no. Or you take a photo of the new shoes you’d like to buy and you want to show someone on Facebook, again this is a no. But let’s say you have a beautiful shot of your granddaughter blowing out the candles on a birthday cake then this is a big yes. Oh and how about that beautiful shot of the girls, even though you shot it with your phone it was awesome and again we have a big yes. Placing a watermark is not going to keep somebody from stealing your photo, but it sure helps a lot. It is kind of like putting a lock on your bicycle. If the thief really wants it he will find a way to steal it, but it keeps 95% of the bad guys away. Also remember once you post to Facebook you don’t own the photo anymore, Mark Zuckerberg owns your photo and he isn’t going to do a thing to keep somebody from stealing it. But by putting a watermark in is a big deterrent.

Go a step further and put the © symbol in. It means very little and it hasn’t been required since Jimmy Carter was president, but by putting the © in it does give your attorney even more leverage if you were in court. You don’t have to be a famous photographer creating fine art prints to have your photo stolen. I always remember the case many years back about the girl who had her teen photo stolen and it found its way to being on printed abortion literature and was being used four states away at various medical facilities. It had been used for over five years and lo and behold a college friend seen it and notified her. So not all cases could be that extreme, but why take the chance. One thing you must know is; if you created it then it is yours and you have the right to decide who can use it and where it will be used. Yes you have that right and the US Constitution says so. As Ed Greenberg & Jack Resnicki point out “copyright” (exclusive Right ) is the only “right” mentioned in the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8 states “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;.” All other “rights” or freedoms are part of the “Bill of Rights,” so I guess our fore fathers were really up on people protecting intellectual property. With that said remember you give up sole ownership when posting to social media. It is in the fine print when you agree to the terms of use. So while you do not own the photo, by putting a watermark in you do show that it was once yours.

Here is another example of when to watermark. Let’s say you have a business website and you have photos posted to the pages as almost all websites do. If you are using photos that you created then you should watermark them. Let’s just say Jack is a nice guy and has a landscaping business and part of what he does is building beautiful stone walls. Jack is very proud of what he does and wants to use photos of past work to get future work and he is so proud of his stone walls that he wants the photos to look the best they can. He hires a local photographer to take some images, edit them and Jack sends them over to the webmaster for his site. Now the photos are up and they look great, everybody can see examples of Jack’s work. But… ole slippery Sam is in the same business and lives 500 miles from Jack. Sam builds his own website and he has photos that he shot with his iPhone, but well… they don’t look as nice a Jack’s photos. So ole slippery Sam does the copy & paste and steals Jack’s photos… you know? The ones with no watermarks. Like I said Jack’s a nice guy, so nice he paid the photographer to take the photos and now he just gave them away for free to Sam. This scenario plays out every day all day long. Would Jack give his truck and tools away for free so another guy to go make money? Most likely not. In this example those photos are like “tools” and they are used to make money.

So how do I and where do I? Watermarking is very easy there are free apps you can download for Droids and iPhones that make simple text watermarks and some will also put in an image. If using an image you have the best results with a png file rather than a jpeg file. Png files are transparent and are perfect for watermarking. There are several ways to convert a jpeg image over to a png, but at the very basic you can open a photo in Microsoft Paint (every PC has it) and choose “save as” then choose png file under the box at the bottom where you type the file name, hit “save” and you’re done. I’ll post a tutorial later.

Now we have made our clever watermark so where do we place it? I know I’ll put it right in the center of the photo and this will certainly stop the photo thief. Yes it will and it will basically ruin the viewing pleasure of all who come to see your photo. I like to keep the watermark in the lower corners, although I have friends who like to put just simple text along the edge running top to bottom. Matter of fact I recently at the beginning of 2015 made my watermark a logo for my photography business. Prior I had used simple transparent text with a © and after a few years I was bored with that and made the logo I use today. It is not a matter of “will someone steal my photo” but rather “when will they steal my photo.” I have posted before about how I have had photos stolen and even had them re-edited and the bastard put his watermark in but credited me as the photographer. Did make sense, anyway I see his Instagram profile is gone now lol.

So you decide for yourself… Most people are lazy and will never do it.

Foot note: For an ultimate source of copyright info I recommend picking up a newly revised copy of The Copyright Zone by Ed Greenberg & Jack Reznicki or checkout their classes on www.kelbyone.com

How Will You Pass on Your Digital Photos? (we don’t know all of what went on back then, but we do know they had awesome weddings.)

 

This is a topic that really is important to each and every person. Or at least anyone who has digital photos… and who doesn’t? Please take the time to watch this video and just think about it for a few minutes. There is no real “big” revelation of an answer. I came across this video some time back and could never find it again until I seen it in my news feed today.

I started with my first digital camera several years back (about 1999), a Hewlett-Packard 2 MP and I experienced problems just a year into my digital photography. At the time the small three and half-inch floppy disk was a standard means of storage. Well it was standard for me until I bought the next computer and it didn’t have a floppy drive, it only had CD drive. I remember a few computer geek friends of mine who got a good ole belly laugh and said “why in the world would you store anything on a floppy.” It sure made me feel like a dummy. But I also started to think “what if CDs go out of date?” And again I was laughed at. Then as time marched on we seen compact flash cards (my first digital camera had one), than SD, Micro SD, Thumb Drives and cut to present day and it is all about external hard drives and cloud storage. It all keeps changing and now people are laughing at those who still store on a CD. But meanwhile we still have the option to print and frame our photos… or hey, what about putting them in a photo album? At 50 years old I certainly remember how novel it was to visit a friend a see photo albums sitting under the coffee table in the family room and they were there for whoever wanted to see them. And if anybody dare laugh at printing photos today, well I ask you to talk to any wedding photographer and ask how important that bridal album is to the client? For a wedding photographer; aside from the agony of capturing the day’s events, there is most times the greater agony of that “album” to deal with.

Now because we have social media there is no need for an album under the coffee table… or is there? Photobooks I think would be a better option today than that old style album with the plastic sheets. But… photo-books can be costly. Again as you can see there really is no cut & dry answer to this topic. But personally I still lean towards prints. I can tell you that the DNG file, which is also called a “digital negative”, is a lossless format that was created by Adobe. The DNG is recommended by the Library of Congress as the standard means of archiving digital images. So therefore I think it is safe to say that computers & software will be able to always read DNG file format. But… hold on there a minute; did you even know what a DNG was before you just read about it here? Most in-depth photographers would know, but the average person might not know. Then ask yourself this question; If DNG is the so-called standard, why does my camera or better yet, all cameras not shoot a DNG file? And yes not all cameras shoot a DNG and that includes the cameras in most average mobile phones. Kind of confusing and again leading us back to the big question of; If we really… and I mean “really” love our photos and want to save them as our parents & grandparents did, we need to come up with a way to do this and not just talk about it.

Could there actually come a time when people of the future look back in time and see all those old paper photos that pre-date digital and have a big gaping shadow where the digital age started because there is no way to retrieve a vast amount of digital files? Where are digital files actually stored when we send them to the so-called “cloud?” Or let’s just get real crazy and ask; what if there is ever a weapon developed that can erase or destroy large amounts of digital files at one time? Sounds kind of outrageous and futuristic right? About as outrageous and futuristic as the nuclear bomb was just five years before it was built and used to destroy two cities, by virtually erasing them from the earth. I know that all seems a little farfetched in a conversation about photography, but let’s just really give thought as to how you want to pass your special moments of your life on to your next generation. It actually would be kind of funny if nobody did anything and there was a big gap in retrieving digital files in the future. They could all look back and think; “we don’t know all of what went on back then, but we do know they had awesome weddings.” Hahahhahaa.

As always, thank you for reading and have a great day.

A Must Read For New Models (And “yes” many days in life are like a minefield. )

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This post is directed towards new models coming into the world of modeling and it is to give them an idea of what one might want to do and not do as they start off on that long journey. You did know it is a long journey, right? Ok, so as a model you are more than just a pretty face. In the beginning you are just a pretty face, but you need to take it to the next level. Many models are using modeling as a way to propel themselves to something higher, like acting or other aspects of the entertainment business. While I will agree there are some models out there of all ages that are “hobbyist” so to speak and they just like being in front of the camera and there is nothing wrong with that. It certainly is a fun way to start to see if you really like being in front of a camera.

But let’s face it, it doesn’t matter if you’re using modeling as a step up to something higher or you just want to go straight for professional modeling, you need to brand yourself. I am not going to go into branding in detail because it is a topic that should be looked at in detail and I am not an expert. I do know a lot about branding, however like I said I am not an expert. It all sound kind of scary and complicated and rightfully so, however if you break it all down it is not that complicated and if you want to succeed & survive in a cruel world it has to be done. The biggest piece of advice anyone could ever give you is “take business courses” and learn about business. I know you’re thinking how does this all relate to modeling. Ok, so as you grow you are going to make money, hopefully we can say you will make lots of money, so you need to be prepared for this chapter of your career before you come to it. You have to know this may be the most important decision you’ll ever make and like many things in life you’ll never fully understand it until you look at it in hindsight. It doesn’t matter if you are a model or a photographer or someone who wants to open a restaurant, you need to know how to make business decisions and all the other do’s & don’ts. You could have the best food recipes in the world and have the nicest restaurant in town but if you know nothing about how to run a business, you have a perfect plan for failure. As a model you may think that when you become well known and start working for bigger clients you’ll just hire and agent or a manager and this is a fine thing to do. But how do you know they are good at making business decision?  If you know nothing about what is and isn’t a good business decision and you hired a manager or an agent, they could be stealing your profit or worse yet, lead you down a bad business path. So I’ll say it one last time take some business courses, you’ll be so glad you did. Besides if you decide to make career changes it is a very valuable set of skills to have.

So moving on… You need to establish a web presence and I don’t just mean a Facebook or Instagram page. You need to learn about social media.

  • How it works and doesn’t work.
  • What content belongs on what social media?
  • Keep up with the times as social media is constantly changing.
  • Social media vs a website.

First and foremost if at all possible you need to secure the domain for your name. This means buying the web address that is your name. I’ll explain; my name is Richard Smith Jr and I also go by Richie Smith Jr. I own both of those dot com names. I don’t have them attached to a website, but I do own http://www.richardsmithjr.com & http://www.richiesmithjr.com. I have a very common name but I am proud to own those dot coms as it gives me the power to control the web presence of my actual name. For me it is somewhat important, but let’s look at somebody like Lily Aldridge. Come on you know who Lily Aldridge is right? She is a Victoria’s Secret Angel and a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue model. Now how would it look if she did not secure the dot com of her name and it fell into the wrong hands? So I think by this point you are starting to see why you need to secure the dot com of your name if you can.

Now social media is an ever changing thing. Do you remember Myspace? If you don’t remember or are too young to know, MySpace was huge before Facebook came along. Will Facebook always be here? If you answered “yes” just remember that’s what MySpace thought. Who knows maybe Facebook will last, but as of now a lot of the younger crowd has kind of split off of Facebook and went over to Instagram. Instagram is more of what the younger crowd is looking for, but there will always be the “new kid in town” and everybody will try it. I thought Twitter was worthless when I first seen it. Now I use it. I actually use several forms of social media, but I use each one a little differently. I have a personal Facebook for family & friends and then I have two business Facebook pages, one for my photography and another for my catering business. Twitter is great for news, Pinterest is where I create mood boards for photo shoots and Instagram is where I follow people whom I find interesting although I may not know them. IG is also where people find me, both photographers and models. They follow what I’m doing ask questions and interact, of course I do the same. So that is a brief overview of social media and there is a lol more to it, but most of all is to know what to post and where to post it. Don’t be rude on Instagram and post 20 selfies a day and fill up your follower’s feed, which is a great way to lose followers on IG & Facebook. If you want to post a selfie, make it one really cool selfie. Make it special, make it different and make it something people want to see. One interesting selfies is so much better than 20 selfies of you looking like a deer in the headlights.

A website is different than social media because it will always be there and you will always control it. It will be where anybody can go to see what you are about, what your business or career is. Maybe you sell products of services or in some way produce content for learning or entertaining purposes. Either way it is your website, your dot com and it is your little part of the internet.

I have worked with several models and I have met and talked with even more than I can count. I find so many young or maybe just new to modeling that have all this drive and willingness and most of all dreams to achieve, but they’re clueless about where they should be going. I mean clueless as to “they don’t even know that they don’t know anything.” And clueless is not always a bad thing, clueless people have no fear because they don’t even know they should have fear. And with fear being a big obstacle, not having it can be good… that is unless you’re walking through a minefield. And “yes” many days in life are like a minefield. So I guess the purpose of this post is to get new models to just stop and look and think, before heading to the minefield.

The Selfie Stick (along the way of the whole trip I was hit with the selfie diarrhea… eww).

Angel & Me

My Angel & Me

The “Selfie Stick”… it was only a matter of time and the inevitable would happen. A way for people to capture a selfie of themselves literally anywhere. There has been so much written lately on the topic of selfies. As a photographer I really do follow this change in society. Although I rarely take a selfie with my mobile phone I do find myself (like most photographers) taking a selfie as test shots. Most times it is for checking the lighting, the camera is on a tripod and when I have no one else around to be a stand in, so I’ll jump in front of the camera. I guess it doesn’t really count as a true selfie unless I was to go crazy and post them to social media. I will admit I have made a fair amount of self-illustrations, again usually when I’m working on a new technique in Photoshop. But somehow I’m not really self-absorbed with it.
However I do follow social media closely as I’m always promoting my own photography and illustrations. After all this is pretty much what the modern day photographer does to promote. Instagram for me is the place of recent that people really have gravitated toward. I get so much activity and business from Instagram it is amazing. Now while following Instagram and Facebook I see so many selfies. Mostly teen to college aged girls, but I say “mostly” although the trend seems to be changing and I’m starting to see more and more older females and guys putting up the selfie.
Let’s take a look at the selfie ordeal, shall we. So ok your out to dinner with friends and you want to capture the moment so you and your BFF squeeze in tight and take a selfie. You captured that moment and off it goes to Facebook oblivion for all your friends to see and comment on. Then five minutes later you do it all again. But dare I ask… If you shot the first selfie to capture the so called “moment,” what was so different about five minutes later that you needed to capture the moment again? I really don’t quite get it. Now I don’t worry about offending this type of person with this blog post because I know 100% for sure they’re not reading it because three sentences into the post they had to stop and go take a selfie (no joke intended).
I did read an article just the other day about a young man that committed suicide because he could not take a perfect selfie. He became obsessed with taking the perfect selfie and after some time he became withdrawn and depressed and offed himself. After reading this I thought not too much about it, just thinking that this particular person obviously had some mental problems and the whole selfie thing just was the end result. …Or was it? Are we going to start (or have we already) to see the beginning of a new era of mental disorders spawned by technology and the ability to take a photo of yourself? Just saying… I don’t know the answer to that question; but____ selfie diarrhea is all over everybody’s social media. Maybe you’re not the one posting the selfie but there they are all over your Instagram feed. Just now as I’m writing I go to my Instagram and I see five selfies out of the first twenty photos in the feed. Now I just went to my Facebook feed and the third post was a selfie. Now I really don’t think the selfie is a bad thing, however I would question the mental status of someone who is posting several selfies a day, or an hour. I would think several selfies a days would be a bit much, but again I see it all the time. And as I stated earlier I’m not off limits to posting a selfie, but starting back last July I kind set a self-imposed rule to kind of give my selfies a purpose. While finishing up a photo shoot with model Cynthia Ann she asked if I could stand behind her while she captured a selfie with her “awesome” photographer (her words not mine) and then she did the same with the makeup artist. So I kind of got in a little bit of a habit of capturing a selfie with the models right after the shoot is over. Although the photo is usually posted to social media the big laugh comes at the time we’re capturing the selfie and I never really pay too much attention to it after that. So that is my personal rule, no selfies unless you have a pretty girl standing in front of you. Cool rule I think lol. Crazy? Maybe, but not enough to kill myself if it turns out bad lol.
So let’s end where we started… the Selfie Stick. There is more to the selfie stick then first meets the eye. See like the young man who could not take the perfect selfie, I noticed many people of recent trying to capture themselves in just the right way. I recently spent a month in Thailand and all along the way of the whole trip I was hit with the selfie diarrhea (eww). I seen people contorting themselves and standing in weird positions, even falling down because they were trying to capture the selfie. And yes I saw the selfie stick everywhere. Now this is my observation; most people I noticed when using the Selfie Stick hold the stick up above so the camera is looking down. This is one (not the only) of the techniques that photographers use to capture… a… well… fat person. Yup my blog so I can say it. And not just fat people but it is a technique used to stretch out the loose skin we all have around our neck as we get older. Overweight or not, most people are conscious about the loose skin around their neck and the Selfie Stick can help reduce this if used at the correct angle. Then not to mention Google puts a softening to your photo automatically… oh you didn’t know that? Sure Google and I’m sure others do it too, put a softening filter to photos that have faces in them and you can turn the option off if you like, but most people don’t even know about it. They just know they look so dam good in their iPhone.
Time will tell… but I’m laying my money down on the bet that the selfie disorder will make a lot of people a lot of money much the way other fake disorders have made shrinks money for years. They (whoever they are) say “OMG you posted ten selfies in 9 minutes your gonna die” and then the therapy starts along with support groups and I could even see some moron selling anti-selfie pills… don’t laugh your spouse is most likely ordering them right now for your teen. Who cares if somebody takes too many photos of themselves? Not me, I think it is downright hilarious, just like the people that say Fast Food is evil because it made them fat or people who kill themselves texting. I could go on and on all day… OMG maybe I have a disorder because I laugh at other people short comings in life… oh that group therapy session will be soooo much fun.

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My wife & I.

Nicole & I

Nicole & I

 

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Just having fun at Thepsuda Bridge

 

 

Heading To Thailand for 28 days. (scenes from 2012 trip)

1/125 sec at f/5.6 ISO 100 200mm

1/125 sec at f/5.6 ISO 100 200mm

 

So what will I see on this trip to Thailand? I hope to see a lot of friends and family. But aside from that I hope to shoot some really nice HDR photography. I shot some HDR in 2012 and while it was very good and I was so pleased with my results, this year I have a much better camera body. The 6D will shoot at 50 ISO which is super clean. In addition to the camera I have learned even more about HDR and more about how to edit those nice images.

And I have other projects on my bucket list for this trek, one being some “long exposure” photography. I have a 10 stop Neutral Density filter that may come in real handy while I’m trekking around the islands. Oh yeah I’m getting excited just thinking about what I can do with that filter. I also have a Hoya 77mm R72 Infrared Filter that would be great to play with.

But there really is a goal to come back with some awesome images that will be specifically for use as backgrounds. These backgrounds will be used to create final images using the studio shots of models, Kendall Strampel & Cynthia Ann. Who knows I may not find anything worthy and have to look elsewhere?

Most of all I know I will capture images of interesting people and Thai culture. Village life is always fascinating, at least to me. Temples are fun for HDR too.

So I leave you with some images of my last trek to Thailand.

 

Are Real Photographers Still Needed? The guy driving his Porsche to work is a legend in his own mind, not a Formula One driver.

Seren at Graffiti Pier

Seren at Graffiti Pier

Part 1:

In our ever changing world of technology digital photography and social media has changed many things about when, where, why and how we take photos. Matter of fact I ask the question; are they really photographs? After all “photographs” were images that were on a special paper and we framed them for display or put them in photo albums for safe keeping and to go back and view from time to time. Today as a photographer I find myself calling them images rather than “photographs.”  So then I question; what does that make me? Am I an image maker and not a photographer anymore? It is really funny when you actually stop and think about it. Even with video now days, there is no video tape so most time I say “I captured video” rather than say “I recorded video.”

So with social media most times we view are photos or images on some sort of backlit device be it a phone, tablet or monitor. This makes me question; is there still a need for a hard copy print? I have blogged about this in the past and have stated that for me there is nothing better than opening that box when it arrives from my print source and holding the actual hard copy print in my hand. I will even view it in different light and hold it up to the wall to see how it will look. Then of course there is the framing and finding that special place to hang it. Then I can say the act of capturing the image is complete. I don’t know what it is, but opening that box when it arrives is like Christmas morning for me, the anticipation is actually a joyful feeling and not a nervous one.

But we still have this whole social media explosion going on and it is a big part of many people’s lives. There is viewing and sharing of images that goes on so much that we hardly remember a time when we didn’t do it. And if you are of the younger generation you can’t remember a time you didn’t post and share because you have done it your whole life. So why do we take photos? Why not, every phone has a camera in it and cameras in the phones are getting better every year. Where do we take photos? Everywhere, we take photos of our food, something people rarely ever did before the camera in the phone. And the “selfie,” you can’t go on social media and not find photos of people taking photos of themselves. So without a doubt it has all changed.

And now I ask you; who needs a photographer when everybody has a camera in their phone. Ok… so first I have to say “you know how irritated I get when people start comparing their iPhone to a DSLR. Yes the iPhone takes good photos but it is as far from a DSLR as a production Porsche road car is to a Porsche powered Formula One car. The guy driving his Porsche to work is a legend in his own mind, not a Formula One driver. Same goes for the iPhone and a DSLR, enough said.

The Photo Shoot: With all the changing in today’s photography, photographers still find a place where they can hold a firm stand and will most likely always be needed. Now I define a “photographer” as a person who actually has knowledge that goes past the entry level DSLR and editing using Photoshop Elements. I define the “photographer” as someone who knows, the camera settings like the back of his/her hand, lighting techniques, posing, editing skin tones, fixing problems such as the bug that landed on the nose during that special moment ect… Then there is printing… Wait… did I say printing? Sure, we can still print images; after all it is a little bit expensive to go around hanging large screen monitors to view our images. While a 16×20 inch photograph is a whole lot easier and cheaper to mount. And a “photographer” is going to have the proper lens for the type of shot being captured.

To be continued…